TSA, airline settle security theater suit

We Will Not Be Silent t-shirt
Raed Karrar's t-shirt.

Two Transportation Security Administration (TSA) staffers and airline JetBlue have paid a civil settlement of $240K to passenger Raed Jarrar, who was initially denied boarding a flight in 2006 because of Arabic writing on his shirt, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said today.

According to the ACLU, on August 12, 2006, Jarrar was waiting to board a JetBlue flight from New York to his home in Oakland, California, when he was approached by two TSA officials. One of them told Jarrar that he needed to remove his shirt because other passengers were not comfortable with the Arabic script, telling him that wearing a shirt with Arabic writing on it to an airport was like “wearing a t-shirt at a bank stating, ‘I am a robber.’”

The settlement, reached late last month and delivered to Jarrar on Friday, was a "victory for free speech," said ACLU attorney Aden Fine. "This settlement should send a clear message to all TSA officials and airlines that they cannot discriminate against passengers based on their race or the ethnic content of their speech," Fine said in a statement.

Just to be clear. This was not about anyone actually, oh, being a terrorist. Or carrying weapons. Jarrar's shirt said, "We will not be silent" in English and Arabic. Compare his experience to the writer from the Atlantic who was waved past a bored TSA checker with a Hezbollah flag. Even after convincing Jarrar to cover up his shirt in order to allow him to board, they literally moved his seat to the back of the plane.

This was kabuki-level security theatre — and racial profiling.

Read more at the ACLU. (And hey, while you're there, why not become a member?)